August 26, 2009
Team Canada 2010 Power Rankings
With the Team Canada 2010 orientation camp now in it's third day, now seems like the perfect time to update the Team Canada 2010 Olympic Team Power Rankings.
Team Canada 2002 and 2006 were made up completely of players who were invited to the respective orientation camps. (There was no orientation camp for the 1998 Olympics.) While the Canadian brass won't turn a blind eye to any player having an amazing first half of next season, we can safely assume Team Canada 2010 will be made up of orientation camp invitees once again. Bad news for Marc Savard.
With that in mind, I will only rank players invited to camp. Based on the players who were invited to camp, we can see the type of players the coaches and management are looking for. Canada will be looking for reliable players who can play in every role. Versatility is the real desired asset.
Let's take a look at the new power rankings, by position. Remember, each Olympic team is allowed to carry 23 players on their roster, 3 of which must be goalies. It is up to each nation to disperse the 20 skater positions. Most nations will either go with 13 forwards and 7 defensemen, or 12 forwards and 8 defensemen.
1. Martin Brodeur - Brodeur is the incumbent, and as long as he stays healthy he is a lock on the team. Can someone take the starting role from him? No one has wrestled it away yet.
2. Roberto Luongo - The one goalie who could, some would say should, take over the #1 spot is Roberto Luongo. There have been questioning whispers about his play in Stanley Cup games, but I just can not see a healthy Luongo missing the cut. An added beneficial intangible: no one knows the intricacies of GM Place better than Luongo.
3. Cam Ward - Based on last season Cam Ward vaulted himself into top 3 consideration while others floundered. He may be the best choice for the third goalie role - the young incumbent. Some even say he should be Canada's starter - he is a Stanley Cup champion and was arguably the best second half goalie in the NHL last season.
4. Marc Andre Fleury - He was the Stanley Cup winnig goalie last season, what more can you ask for? He will have to out-play his competitors in the first half of the season.
5. Steve Mason - Mason had just an amazing rookie season, but he will need to keep the same pace if not better if he wants to be in the top 3. Even then he's probably a little too green to be considered for a top two role, whereas Ward and Fleury have won Stanley Cups.
1. Scott Niedermayer - The only question mark regarding Niedermayer's inclusion was whether he was going to retire or not. Now that he has committed to one more year, he is guaranteed a spot on this team.
2. Chris Pronger - I'm not a huge fan of Pronger at the Olympic level, because he is such a slow skater. But these games are going to be played on NHL sized ice, perhaps making that irrelevant. His physical presence will be needed. That and his familiarity with Niedermayer and his record in big games will likely see him make this team. He may also be the only shutdown defender from the NHL's Eastern Conference - meaning he may have an advantage facing off against Ovechkin, Malkin and Kovalchuk.
3. Jay Bouwmeester - J-Bo's game is nearing full maturity, which is a scary thought. He's kind of a combination of Niedermayer and Pronger - an incredible skater with incredible size, although he won't intimidate anyone like Pronger.
4. Dan Boyle - I just love Dan Boyle's game. He's almost a Niedermayer clone. I am not seeing the down side. I always felt he was the straw that stirred the drink in Tampa, and he can be counted on to be an impact player for Team Canada.
5. Shea Weber - BC boy Weber is a great package of offense and physicality, with a maturing defensive game. Weber is an interesting combination of Mike Green and Dion Phaneuf, perhaps making one or both of them expendable.
6. Robyn Regehr - Regehr is an intimidating workhorse, a real shut down defender. We spoke of versatility earlier. I could see him being counted on with the lead and for penalty kills, but sit down when offense is needed.
7. Mike Green - Green had one of the most amazing seasons in NHL history last season, but he will need to put up similar numbers in the first half. If he can, his offense is too good to pass up.
8. Dion Phaneuf - Green and Phaneuf are both big impact defensemen but in many ways their games are still immature and subject to spectacular blunders. I don't see Canada taking both Green and Phaneuf because of that. I'm giving Green the edge now based on last season, but if Phaneuf can rebound his physical style would definitely be welcomed. Having coach Brent Sutter in Calgary can only help Phaneuf's game this season.
9. Duncan Keith - Though the top 7 or 8 Canadian choices are all impact defensemen, something no other nation can match, NHL injuries will likely impact every Olympic team. First half performance will line up who may slip into a possible role with Team Canada. Duncan Keith is very much topping the list right now.
10. Marc Staal - Staal's game has quietly emerged. Should Robyn Regehr be unable to play due to injury, Staal will get serious consideration for the shutdown role.
11. Brent Burns - Due to injuries last season was a write off for Burns, who I truly believed was about to have a coming out party as a dominant NHLer. He's a fascinating blend of power, speed and agility. We talked about versatility earlier - Burns could be a great swingman, playing forward but drop back to the blue line in case of mid-game injuries.
12. Brent Seabrook - Seabrook and Keith led Chicago's long run in the playoffs last season. I still see Seabrook as a little too green for these Olympics, but depending on injuries he remains in the mix.
Long shots - Drew Doughty (too young) and Dan Hamhuis, Stephane Robidas, Francois Beauchemin (not elite defensemen).
1. Sidney Crosby - D'uh!
2. Jarome Iginla - ditto.
3. Mike Richards - Richards may be the most versatile player on the roster. He can play any role extremely well. He'll be a big part of the PK and defensive game, but I suspect he'll score a timely goal or two. If Canada could ice 20 Mike Richards they would almost be guaranteed of the gold medal.
4. Vincent Lecavalier - His track record should make him a lock, but if the precarious Tampa Bay Lightning situation affects his play in the first half of the season, a little doubt enters the equation.
5. Martin St. Louis - The veteran speedster is a great specialty teams player and has good chemistry with Lecavalier.
6. Ryan Getzlaf - He can play either center or wing. He's got out of this world talent and the size and even a bit of a mean streak to go with it. He's an intriguing package with a nicely maturing game.
7. Rick Nash - Nash is much like Getzlaf, and thanks to Ken Hitchcock he's rounding into a complete player. That should make him a lock for Team Canada.
8. Dany Heatley - He has made no friends this summer with his selfish trade demands, but Heatley is a true scorer with a great track record in international play. Will he be willing to accept a lesser role with Team Canada than he normally would with a NHL team? That is something virtually every player other than Crosby and Iginla will have to deal with.
9. Simon Gagne - Gagne has come a long way back from concussion problems, and will need a strong start to next season. But his track record and chemistry with Jarome Iginla are hard to pass up on.
10. Shane Doan - Doan has always answered the call for Canada. I see him in a bit of a grinding role in these Olympics, much like Kevin Dineen or Rick Tocchet or Brent Sutter or Dirk Graham back in the old Canada Cup days. Players like Doan are needed to win.
11. Brendan Morrow - see Doan, Shane. Perhaps the two of them centered by Mike Richards would be an awesome line, with all three able to move to other lines to create energy.
12. Jonathan Toews - I am not completely sold on Toews being quite ready for these games, as he is still a little young. A big start to the new season would greatly assist him. His game is quite a bit like Richards, with perhaps more offensive creativity.
13. Eric Staal - His game has re-emerged at the elite level last season. It might come down to whether Canada wants a shooter or a playmaker, though.
14. Jeff Carter - He will need another strong start to the new season. He's a goal scorer who has great chemistry with Richards. He's extremely versatile, playing either center or win and starring on either specialty team. He may get the nod over Toews.
15. Joe Thornton - If Canada wants a playmaker, there is none better than Joe Thornton. His track record in big games is horrible, and I have argued for his exclusion for some time now. But his talent is otherworldly and he remains an intriguing possibility.
16. Jordan Staal - If Canada is looking for a big, physical shut down center, Jordan Staal certainly has done the job to perfection so far in his career. Three Staals on Team Canada? What a story that would be.
17. Patrick Sharp - He's a great two way player and good on the specialty teams. He'll only make the team because of injuries, but he's a great secondary choice.
18 Corey Perry - He's a versatile offensive player who can play center or wing with some sandpaper to his game. Perry also has intriguingly good chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf.
19. Derek Roy - Roy has been on the radar for quite some time, but he did not do himself any favors with an average performance at the World Championships last year. Yet he is a versatile player who can slot in on any line and help the special teams.
18. Milan Lucic - I am a huge fan of Lucic, and I think he could make a big impact at the Olympics with not a lot of ice time. His stock will rise if injuries catch up with guys like Doan and Morrow. That being said, I know he's really a long shot right now.
Long shots - Dan Cleary, Andy McDonald, Ryan Smyth, Patrick Marleau, Jason Spezza